You may be offering financial products or advisory services, but you’re ultimately selling yourself. What image are you projecting?

Creating an effective brand with clients, prospects and colleagues can be a huge career boost. Just ask Mihaela Ciocan, a Vancouver-based image management specialist, who says her business is all about branding people.

What is it

Image consulting encompasses a wide variety of professionals who can assist with visual appearance, communication and presentation.

What it includes

A battery of professionals, including style, colour and wardrobe consultants; media trainers; career coaches; personal shoppers; cosmetic and skincare specialists; hair stylists; and etiquette experts.

how it helps

Beyond your financial knowledge and insights, your image can give you a competitive edge, says Toronto image consultant Dominique Vaughan-Russell. Everything from the clothes you wear to the eye contact you make, and from your manners to the pen you use to sign papers, says something about you. When people are giving you their money, says Vaughan- Russell, they want you to appear trustworthy and confident.

Why you need it

Research shows we size people up in 30 seconds or less. In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell writes that we make up our minds about people we meet in as few as two seconds. And, according to a study by UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, body language accounts for 55% of that first impression, tone of voice counts for 38%, and our actual words just 7%.

Good to know

Some people think that image consulting is just about what’s on the surface. The opposite is true, says Mirella Zanatta, an image consultant based in London, Ont.: “Our goal is to align your values, personality and physical characteristics so you can shine as your authentic self.”

Who can help

Check the listings on the Canadian website of the Association of Image Consultants International,

how much

Since services range widely, so can fees. Ciocan recommends getting a formal proposal and cost estimate, with a clear indication of the time needed to accomplish the goal (if paying by the hour) or what a project fee includes.